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01st Jun 2016
Warning! This info may be out of date. Read this week's email

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"Hi. This free, spam free weekly email is the key way to save. We put all the latest deals, guides and loopholes in, yet many close within hours. Don't miss out, join the 12m who get it each week."

01 June 2016
Martin's Briefing: Martin's 5 best card tricks - pervert your plastic
3.2m wrong tax codes - check NOW
Check if hackers have stolen your info
Strewth. Australia flights sub-£600
Stop cold calls with one text
Free Open Farm Sun, incl welly-wanging & sheep racing
Poundshop 12% off, eg, 88p 2.5L Fairy Liquid, 88p iPad case
Book hols car hire NOW to slash cost
Fast BT fibre b'band & line £253/yr
£2.60 Sains prosecco trick problems?
£9 specs or £19 prescription sunnies
EU vote - under a week to register
£86 Nails Inc bundle for £21
Starbucks AM brew gets 50% off PM
10 ways to get overdraft-free
Free Doncaster Races tix code

Martin's Weekly Briefing: For more tips, alerts & puns, follow Martin on Twitter

My 5 best card tricks - pervert your plastic

Manipulate credit cards to get a FREE £100, TWO BA return flights, a free £30 M&S voucher, perfect exchange rates at no cost

To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit, credit cards aren't bad, they're just used that way. Used right they're the best, safest and most rewarding way to spend. Used wrong they're a nightmare of debt and despair. So we hope to steer you to the right way.

Card tricks Today though I want to take it a step further. Credit card firms will typically spend £75-£150 acquiring new customers (eg, on marketing, direct mail or freebies).

So my aim's to show you tricks to take their reward schemes, neutralise the danger and pocket that cash. All you've got to do is play your cards right.

1. Free £30 M&S voucher for spending a penny. We've flushed out a great deal. Accepted new M&S Bank card holders (eligibility calc / apply*) who apply via these specific links by 20 Jun and spend even just 1p on it by 31 July, get sent a £30 M&S voucher. If needed, this card is also 19mth 0% on spending deal - used right there's no cheaper way to borrow.

- Extra £5 of points. The first time you use the card (on most things) at M&S you get 500 M&S points, worth £5. So buy a Tesco banana and you're £30 up, but buy an M&S banana and it's £35. Then you can pay it off and forget it or keep using it for 1pt per £1 spend in M&S and per £5 spent elsewhere (just pay off in full each month to stay safe).

- Is the 0% deal worth it? It's decent, but beware new borrowing, ensure it's planned and budgeted for. Yet if you need it, 0% is as cheap as it gets, though longer 0%s are possible, eg, the longest is Sainsbury's card (eligibility calc / apply*) at 27mths 0%. Use our free 0% eligibility calc to see which top card you've best odds of getting.

If you do use a card for 0% on spending, ensure you never miss the min monthly repayment and clear it before the 0% ends or they jump to 18.9% representative APR. FULL help in 0% Spending Cards.
2. Got a credit card and always repay in full? Make it PAY YOU. When you use a card, the retailer has to pay the card firm a transaction fee. With a cashback card you effectively get this in your pocket. As new regulations have cut these fees recently, cashback's been cut too, yet Amex cards are mostly exempted, so still pay a good whack.

The fee-free Amex Everyday (eligibility calc / apply*) pays 5% cashback (max £100) for 3mths, then tiered up to 1.25% after. The money is paid on the anniversary of getting the card (you need to spend £3,000+ to get any cashback). Anna tweeted: "@MartinSLewis Glad I read about Amex cashback: I'll get over £200 paid".

If you're a bigger spender the Amex Plat (eligibility calc / apply*) gives 5% cashback (max £125) for the first 3mths then a flat 1.25% cashback, though has an annual £25 fee. Amex isn't accepted everywhere, so the top alternative is Asda Mastercard (apply*) at 0.5% cashback (1% in Asda).

Yet only do this if you'll set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL each month. If not they're 22.9%/28.2%/18.9% rep APR interest, which kills the cashback gain. Full options in Top Cashback Credit Cards.
3. A free £100 shopping voucher or TWO BA returns. Accepted new applicants for the Amex Gold Charge Card (eligibility calc / apply*) get 20,000 reward points if you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months. This isn't a call to spend more, it's best for those whose normal spending is c. £700+/mth.

- What are the points worth?
The 20,000 bonus is enough for a £100 voucher for Amazon, M&S and more, or two BA economy returns to Paris / Amsterdam or one economy return to Rome / Athens etc. But factor in taxes and charges of at least £35 per return. You continue to earn 1pt per £1 spend on the card after too.

- Warning. After a year there's a £140 fee. The £140 annual fee is waived in year one, so diarise to cancel before then if you want to avoid it.

- It's a charge card, not a credit card.
That means you MUST repay IN FULL every month, there's no option. If you don't you face a £12 penalty and a mark on your credit file. Best do it via direct debit.
4. Near perfect exchange rates in every country. This is a different way to sell a credit card: rather than a giveaway, they give you a free service instead. Here it's near-perfect exchange rates, but used right it costs you nowt. So pocket one and use it every time you're abroad.

Most plastic adds a 3%-ish exchange fee when you spend abroad, but a few specialist overseas credit cards market themselves as 'no fee', so you get the same near-perfect rate the bank gets, on the day you spend (spending on them is cheaper than ATM withdrawals). Only do this if you repay IN FULL each month, or the cards below charge 18.9% and 12.9% rep APR respectively.

Our long-term winner is Halifax Clarity (eligibility calc / apply*) as it's a Mastercard - the underlying rate tends to beat Amex & Visa - and has low ATM withdrawal costs. (Plus if you're a Halifax Reward current account holder who pays in £1,000+, you can get a free £5 any month you spend £300 on the card.)

New-ish card Creation Everyday's (apply*) ATM rates are a smidgeon cheaper but we've little feedback (let us know).

Charlene tweeted: "I'm a traveller and didn't realise how much Natwest was charging me. Just got accepted for a Halifax Clarity card. Thanks."
5. (Re)build your credit score AND get a £20 Amazon vch or 0.5% cashback. If you've a patchy credit file or limited history you'll struggle to get the cards above. However, Aqua has cards even some with past CCJs and defaults can get. And use them each month (repaid IN FULL) without busting your limit and it can (re)build your credit score.

The Aqua Advance (eligibility calc / apply*) will give you a £20 Amazon voucher after two months, as long as you use the card, pay on time and don't bust your credit limit.

Or the Aqua Reward (eligibility calc / apply*) gives 0.5% cashback on all purchases. Both have a hideous 34.9% rep APR, so again please ensure you repay in full.

If you use our eligibility calcs, we can now tell you for both of these cards if you're 'pre-approved', meaning you've a 100% chance of getting that exact deal as long as you pass ID and fraud checks. More in Credit Rebuild Cards.

Frequently-asked card freebie questions...

Q. Will getting these cards hurt my creditworthiness? A. Every application marks your credit file. One isn't a big deal but lots in a short time make it look like you're credit desperate, even if you're only blagging freebies. So we suggest using our eligibility calc(s) first, so you can see whether you're likely to be accepted and don't waste applications.

Of course if you've no use for your credit then grabbing freebies is fine. But if you're due to make an important application (eg, a mortgage or loan), prioritise that and leave these to later. More in my 36 Tips To Boost Your Credit Score guide. If you've burning credit-boosting questions, MSE Guy & Helen are doing a Facebook Q&A at 1-1.30pm on Thu.

Q. Are these the only deals around? A. No, they're just my top picks. There's also an Amex Nectar card where you can earn £100 of points for a £2,000 spend, or a Flybe flight card. Our full list's in Credit Card Freebies, plus see Loyalty Points Boosting for tricks on how to max your rewards.

Q. Can I use cashback sites to get more? A. Often some of these cards will pay extra if you're a member of cashback sites (though the cashback isn't certain); for more on that see Top Cashback Sites.

Q. I'm already in credit card debt. Should I be doing this? A. No. I suggest you prioritise ensuring the debt is cheap. See the Top Balance Transfers guide for what to do.

Q. I've been burnt by credit cards before, should I do this?
A. Follow the recipe above and you should win. Yet credit cards are tempting and if you don't trust yourself to manage them right and not spend, spend, spend - don't risk it.

Saved cash? Shout it from the rooftops.

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Revealed: 3.2m tax codes WRONG - check if you're owed £1,000s

The National Audit Office found a huge number of tax code errors - our unique calc can check if you're a victim

A National Audit Office report's exposed how 3.2m people between April 2014 and Oct 2015 had an incorrect tax code. Some will have paid too much and are due cash back, others too little and may have a horrid shock coming. Our Tax Code Calc guide takes you through it; our 3.2m wrong codes MSE News story explains the revelation. In brief...

  • Tax codesWhat's a tax code? They may look harmless - 1100L, 980BR, K296 - but if you're on a payroll or get a pension, these characters dictate what tax your employer/firm should take via PAYE. Errors are common, especially if you've changed job, retired, have two incomes, someone's keyed in wrong figures or HMRC isn't up to speed.

  • Free tool to check your current or past tax codes are right. Enter your code for a specific year into our Tax Code Calculator and it'll help explain whether it's likely correct for your earnings, age and situation. If your tax code doesn't look right, it probably isn't. While these errors are for a specific period, they're just the latest batch - it's worth checking older ones too, and this year's.

    Here's a recent success - Alice tweeted: "@MartinSLewis Checked tax code thanks to your tweet, and personal allowance error since July means I'm now owed £2k - thank you."

  • What if you owe HMRC cash? Frustrating and complex as it is, it's your legal responsibility to check your own tax code, so if it's wrong, you'll have to pay. If you owe under £50 (and poss more at HMRC's discretion) it may be written off. If you owe less than £3,000, you can repay via your pay packet. If it's more, or if you can't afford to pay, ask HMRC for a payment plan. More help in What If I Underpaid?

  • HMRC never emails you about tax rebates. If you get one, it's a SCAM. See Stop Scams for more.


Check if hackers have stolen your personal info. Find out if passwords, email addresses, your home address, phone numbers or your DOB have been exposed after the big hacks of the last few years (including the recent LinkedIn warning). Hack check

One text now stops most annoying spam calls to mobiles. 85% of landlines are registered with the service that helps block cold calls; just 3% of mobiles are. Now you can with just a text. Full help in Stop cold calls incl our free door sign to stop knockers.

Free Open Farm Sunday: 300+ farms open their doors, incl sheep racing & welly-wanging. Sun only. It's a baa-gain. One day a year, farms open up and put on races & events; great for kids. Some charge. Open Farm Sunday

STOP PRESS: Problems with last week's Sainsbury's £2.60 prosecco trick? We were swamped with successes but late Tues eve it sent an email out saying many would need to pay more. We're urgently investigating. Updates: Prosecco help

Poundshop 12% off code, eg, 88p for 2.5L Fairy Liquid, 88p Griffin iPad case (£6-£20 elsewhere). MSE Blagged. Makes EVERYTHING 88p, some limited stock. Free del if £30+ so best for stocking up (£3 del for less). 88p Poundshop goods

Strewth... Australia flights sub-£600 - how to find 'em. We've been didgeridoo-ing our research after hype over a sub-£600 Down Under promo. We found heaps of bonzer fares on well-rated airlines. See sub-£600 Oz rtn flights blog.



- Poundshop 12% off everything Ends Tue

- £21 Nails Inc collection (norm £86ish) 800 avail

- £9 specs & £19 prescription sunnies Limited stock


- 100+ supermarket coupons, eg, free Pringles

- 'Quotes, misquotes & me in the Stronger In Europe leaflet'

- £1 National Express June one-way coach tix (£1 booking)

- 120 keywords to boost your eBay selling price

- It's back - Ikea's 'free prize with any purchase'


New. Fast BT FIBRE broadband & line '£253 a YEAR' (equiv £21/mth)

Feel the need for fibre speed? Get superfast up-to-52Mb fibre broadband for less than most standard costs

The key to cheap broadband is to pounce on hot, short-lived promo deals and BT's just launched one. It's £383/yr but you can claim £100 cash on a prepaid card, and £30 cashback, so it's £253 after those. BT is often pricey but this brings it down to only a smidgeon more than SSE's ongoing cheapest deal. Contrast those to the BT, Sky, TalkTalk & Virgin standard rates at c. £300-£400 or £440+ a year for fibre. Here are the need-to-knows...

  • Broadband BT fibre broadband & line rent. Ends Thu 9 June. Faster broadband is good for gamers, downloaders or multiple users on one connection. This is a year-long contract for phone line rent & up-to-52Mb speed unlimited broadband (3 times faster than standard). While 83% of the UK can get it (based on postcode), sadly existing BT broadband customers can't...

    1. Sign up. Go via this specific BT link* before 11.59pm Thu 9 June.
    2. Pay line rent upfront. If you can afford it, during the application opt to pay £194.28 for the year (equiv £16.19/mth); if not it's £17.99 monthly rising to £18.99 from Sun 3 July.
    3. Unlimited up-to-52Mb fibre broadband's £10.99/mth + one-off £49 activation fee. You get a 'free' BT Infinity Hub router, though BT charges £7.95 p&p. After the contract ends the broadband rises to £26/mth.
    4. You need to CLAIM a £100 prepaid Mastercard. After installation, fill in this online claim form and it'll be sent within 30 days, you can then spend on it like normal plastic. Do take a note of this link & diarise it. BT WON'T remind you.
    5. You're AUTOMATICALLY sent a £30 cheque within 45 days of installation. MSE Blagged. Go via our link for this extra boon. Turn off ad- or cookie-blocking software or it mightn't track.
    6. 100GB BT Cloud storage. As part of the deal, you get 100GB of free online storage.

    - What about calls? Weekend calls to UK landlines included. See BT costs for other calls.
    - No line/switching from cable? Not a problem, as installation's free.
    - Want BT Sport? BT Sport Lite's included - the full shebang is £6/mth or free with BT TV.

    So all in, how much is this? It's £383.11 for the year before calls, if you pay line upfront, plus broadband, activation and router p&p. Factor in the £30 cheque and claim the £100 Mastercard, and it's £253.11, equivalent to £21.09/mth. Pay line rent monthly and it's £285.71 (before calls) equivalent to £23.81/mth (though BT could increase line rent again).

  • SSE's 76Mb is £21/mth on an 18mth contract, good service rating, anytime landline calls. Hear SSE and most think energy, not broadband. Yet it's been branching out and its ongoing SSE fibre broadband has a max speed 'up to' 76Mb. It's £16/mth line rental, and you must pay £5/mth for anytime calls, then broadband is included 'free' over the 18mth contract. Service is strong at 65% 'great' in our Jan poll but based on limited vote numbers.


£9 specs or £19 prescription sunnies codes. MSE Blagged. Plus £55 Ted Baker & Armani codes. Specs

EU referendum - you've less than a week to register to vote. It may boost your credit rating too. See EU vote register and vote in our EU referendum - have you decided? poll.

£21 for 6 full-size Nails Inc and 4 minis bundle (norm £86ish). MSE Blagged. Ends Tue. 800 avail. Nails Inc

Buy a morning Starbucks coffee, get 50% off cold drink in afternoon. From Friday, not too taxing. Starbucks

10 ways to be overdraft-free. If you ever dip in, act now, eg, get £100 for a 0% o'draft. Save £100s. Overdraft tricks

FREE £19 Doncaster Races tickets code. For Thu 14 Jul, 2,000 avail. They won't be around fur-long


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Book holiday car hire NOW to save up to 75%

If you're going away this summer, sort it now for as little as £11/day, and save up to 90% on insurance too

An early warning. Holiday car hire done wrong costs a fortune. Done right, in ADVANCE, a week's rental can undercut a taxi to and from the airport. So if you're considering it, do it now. Full help in Cheap Car Hire, here's the quick route...

  • Car hire Book NOW to slash the cost. Prices usually rise weekly as you near departure. For example, mid-summer, walk in and if they've got cars, we've heard of prices of £40+ a day. Yet book now for August & we've found Malaga £11/day or Tenerife £15/day. To find your winner at speed use comparison sites; try Kayak* for options, Skyscanner* and TravelSup* for breadth, and if time add Carrentals*.

    MoneySaver Dave told us: "Booked 4mths ahead, got 10 days for £296 for a decent-sized car. Just before I went, checked and price had gone to £900."

  • 'Hey señor, you'll need excess insurance too' - err, no. Whenever I'm (Martin here) hiring abroad, at pick-up I hear people being hard-sold excess insurance and I find it hard not to interfere. So let me do it here. They'll try to scare you with "you need it; without it, have an accident, even a scratch, and you'll pay £1,000s extra". But standalone cover can be £2/day in advance, as Glyn tweeted: "Thanks @MartinSLewis, got excess insurance for £13/WEEK. Rental firm wanted £12/day."

    To find 'em, compare via Moneymaxim*, then check against these discounts: 1) Leisure Guard * with 20% off code MSE20; 2) Reduce My Excess* 20% code MSE03; 3) Questor* 20% code MSE2097; 4) This special Direct Car Excess* link with 15% code MSE2101. Though the car hire firm will want a £500+ credit (not debit) card deposit; see Insurance help.

  • Quick tips to drive down hire costs further: Put the handbrake on your spending with these extra tips...

    - Don't hire GPS, turn your smartphone into a free sat-nav. If it's got GPS, it's a free sat-nav for 190 countries.
    - Beware fuel policy stealth charges. 'Pick up full, return empty' fuel policies can add £90+. See Beat fuel charge.
    - Photo licence? You need a DVLA hire code. Though most overseas firms don't ask - How to get DVLA code.
    - Book via a foreign website to save. If you're dead-set on a specific hire firm, try booking via its overseas site.
    - Slash child-seat costs. Some charge £5+/day, but there are ways to cut child-seat costs.
    - Hiring in Switzerland? A new EU law means you can't drive across a border into an EU country, eg, France.


Pay £10ish for £100+ of PC games incl Assassin's Creed Rogue. Charitable gaming company Humble Bundle lets you 'pay what you want' for games; min £1, but pay more to unlock more. Humble Bundle

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"Just saved mum £337 a year by switching her dual fuel prepayment meters thanks to @MartinSLewis." Check now if you can save.

La Redoute 25% off EVERYTHING code. Ends Fri. Includes women's, men's & kids' clothes, shoes, furniture & items already in its existing 'up to 60%' sale. Also gets free delivery (norm £4). La Redoute 25% off code

Magazine beauty 'freebies' incl £12 Eyeko or Elemis. Eyeliner, mascara, day/night cream, in £4 mags. Beauty



Build carer-friendly communities. Some 6.5 million people care for someone, often giving up their own health and wealth. Around the country, from 6-12 June, Carers Week events will highlight the contribution carers make to their families and communities. This year's theme is building carer-friendly communities - you can recommend carer friendly services, organisations and employers and invite others to find out how to become carer friendly.



How will you be voting in the EU referendum? Or are you a 'don't know'?

Zog Energy turns up the heat on the big boys. The small energy firm took the gold medal in last week's poll on energy providers' customer service, with 97% of those voting for it rating its service 'great'. Extra Energy meanwhile was wallowing in the gutter with 70% of those voting for it rating its service 'poor'.

Of the big six energy providers, EDF came top with 63% 'great' while Npower was bottom with 58% 'poor'. See the full energy service results.



- Top story: Student loan hike petition set for parliamentary debate after hitting 100,000 signatures

- Travelling to a country with the Zika virus? Your refund and rebooking rights

- Pension exit fees could be capped at 1% from next March

- Eligible for carer's credit? You're putting your state pension at risk by not claiming

- Payday loans and packaged bank accounts climb complaints league - but PPI remains top by a distance

- Seven-day mortgage switching proposed in Government consultation



Should I pass train delay compensation to my employer? While working away recently my train was delayed for over an hour, and I'm entitled to £50. I feel that because it was me who was delayed, and was late home that evening, I should keep the cash. But as my company paid, should I give it the cash? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I give my company the compensation for my delay? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Impatience
- Competitions thread of the week: Trip to Defected Festival, Croatia
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Good v Bad Fats
- Discussion of the week: Do you open/close your curtains/blinds when you go out?


- The viral letter about mis-sold student loans due to retrospective interest hikes is well meaning, but wrong

- What I told the Chancellor he should do to improve the marriage tax allowance take-up


- Strewth... Australia flights sub-£600 - how to find 'em

- Pay £10ish for £100+ of PC games incl Assassin's Creed Rogue

- Free 30 minutes of international calls for EE customers



Thu 2 Jun - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. View previous
Fri 3 Jun - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. View previous
Sun 5 Jun - Ideal Home Manchester, noon
Mon 6 Jun - This Morning, ITV, from 10.30am
Mon 6 Jun - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, noon. Subscribe to podcast


Wed 1 Jun - Share Radio, 11.20am
Thu 2 Jun - BBC Radio Manchester, 4.50pm
Tue 7 Jun - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.20pm



Q: If a finance company rejects you because you have "failed their internal criteria", is it legally obliged to tell you the exact reason you failed? Annette, by email.

MSE Sam Mc's A: Under terms of the Lending Code - to which most banks, building societies and credit card lenders subscribe, but which is only voluntary - it says: "If a lender decides not to accept your credit application, you can ask it to explain the main reason for its decision".

However, don't expect what it tells you to be crystal clear; the lender is only obliged to tell you the chief reason, but even then the answer could be vague. Saying "you failed our credit score" could count as a reason. Often staff won't know the answer themselves - the decision will in part be based on computer software and algorithms used to weigh you up as a possible customer.

Your credit score is just a piece of the puzzle as to whether you're accepted. As well as your score, lenders will also look at how profitable you might be and take into account any previous dealings you might have had with them. To understand how it works, and what the banks judge you on, read our full Credit Rating guide.

Please suggest a question of the week (we can't reply to individual emails).

Please suggest a question of the week (we can't reply to individual emails).


Visit the Arctic for just 24 hours, study GCSE maths, dance to a big band... the items you've put on your 'bucket list'

That's it for this week, but before we go, check out this thread from the forum: What would you like to try? This week, forumites discuss the top things they'd like to try in their lifetime. Along with popular items such as visits to the Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu were more unusual suggestions, incl going to the Arctic (but just for a day), taking a maths exam, and learning to shoot professionally. What's on your 'bucket list' and why? Join the discussion.

We hope you save some money,
Martin & the MSE team

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